18. June 2012 06:20
At the back of a dust covered storeroom, John Boraggina, curator of the Catalina Island Museum, uncovered a historical treasure and the record of a disgrace. What he found, according to the recent Los Angeles Times article, was the archives of an early 20th Century pseudo-scientist named Ralph Glidden.
For years Native people from the area have complained about Glidden’s excavation and sale of indigenous skeletons and artifacts from Santa Catalina and other Channel Islands, and the circus sideshow manner in which he publicized his finds. And yet, in his way Glidden, whose dream was to be a great scientist, discovered things thought lost in the passage of time.
Boraggina found enough photographs and written records packed away in cardboard boxes to fill an entire gallery in the museum. Some of the photographs document what Glidden uncovered in the thousands of Tongva Indian gravesites he plundered—skeletons surrounded by pottery, grinding stones and beadwork.
Not only is Boraggina’s find important to California history, it could help us interpret the history of human settlement in the Americas.
Until the 1970s, the first humans to set foot in the New World were thought to be the Clovis People who crossed the Bering land bridge some 13,000 years ago and made their way down the west coast, migrating south and eastward. Their civilization is known for it’s characteristic fluted spear or knife points, called Clovis points after their initial discovery near Clovis, New Mexico.
Then Tom Dillehay from Vanderbilt University excavated a remote campsite on the southern tip of Chile in South America. He found wood and artifacts that radiocarbon tests dated at more than 14,000 years old. It took many years plus DNA evidence from a cave in Oregon before scientists began to accept the idea that other humans had arrived before the Clovis People.
Along with this new theory of human migration came evidence that some of these early people traveled south in small boats, following the west coast of the Americas. They often settled on coastal islands, including those off the shore of California such as the Channel Islands and Santa Catalina Island.
That’s why the evidence found in the Catalina Island Museum is so important—it may influence the ongoing debate about how and where the first humans came to the Americas.
Information on the Catalina Island Museum discovery from the Los Angeles Times http://www.latimes.com/
Information on changing migrations theories in the Americas from Nature Magazine http://www.nature.com/news/ancient-migration-coming-to-america-1.10562